Monday, August 26, 2013

The Science of Sleep

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/30/06 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Written and directed by Michel Gondry, The Science of Sleep tells the story of a young Mexican who moves to France after the death of his father to live with his French mother. Taking a mundane job, he escapes into his often fanatical, dream world filled with his own ideas. Once he meets a new neighbor, he falls in love as his own world of reality and fiction collide. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emma de Caunes, Alain Chabat, and Miou-Miou. The Science of Sleep is a marvel of a film that is true to the visual style of Michel Gondry.

The film explores the world of reality and imagination as a young Mexican man named Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal) moves to France following his father's death to live with his French mother (Miou-Miou) who got him a job cutting and pasting borders for calenders. It's a job that he doesn't like as he retreats to his dreams where he hosts a TV shows that mixes dreams and such. When he meets an artist named Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her friend Zoe (Emma de Caunes), he falls for Stephanie as the two are attracted by their own creative pursuits as the world of reality and fiction starts to collide as it would play into Stephane's refusal to accept reality.

Reality and fiction is a great conflict that many people can relate to. For Michel Gondry, it's the perfect theme for his visual style of filmmaking. The film is really about a young man who wants to get the girl of his dreams while dealing with his own reality which starts to collide with his fantasy. The character of Stephane is like a child since he has troubles dealing with his emotions as he reacts to things like a child, especially with Stephanie. Still, Gondry creates a fantastic story that is a bit more angst-driven than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind while both films have the same amount of heart in creating a whimsical love story.

Gondry's directing definitely mixes the world of reality and fiction where for some audiences, it can be very confusing. Still, Gondry's visual presentation that includes things like cardboard cars, stop-motion animation, big hands, moveable special effects is very childlike in its imagination. In many ways, it's Gondry's most innocent film since it's about a man who is still a child that has trouble growing up to a woman who shares his imagination yet is grounded in the real world. While the film isn't as strong or as evocative as Eternal, this film does prove that Michel Gondry is indeed a brilliant director with wonderful, imaginative ideas.

Helping Gondry in his vision is cinematographer Jean-Louis Bompoint who brings a wonderful shade to the film's exterior and interior settings while using a lot of colors for some of the film's cosmic paint sequences that explores the emotions of Stephane. Production designers Ann Chakravety, Pierre Pell, and Stephane Rosenbaum are the real stars of the film's technical achievements. With their interior locations in Gondry's old apartment, the design of Stephane TV's studio filled with cardboard, cotton, and all sorts of arty material is very magical. With the help of some special effects team that included Lauri Faggioni who created the horse and sculptor Bruno Guillemet, the film is a masterpiece in production design as everything from big hands, cardboard cars, and moving towns is filled with life and wonder.

Sound designers Dominique Gaborieau, Guillaume Le Bras, and Guillaume Sciama do great work in playing the sound to some of the film's gadgets and such. Editor Juliette Welfling also plays to the film's eccentric feel with some nice jump-cut and backwards editing to convey the madness of Stephane's mind. Costume designer Florence Fontaine also does great work in the costumes to the animal clothing Stephane, Serge, and Guy wore to play a song for Stephanie to some of Stephanie's clothing as it brings a lot of innocence. Composer Jean-Michel Bernard brings a largely acoustic, keyboard-driven score to the film while composing his own original ballad that conveys the emotions of Stephane while he makes a cameo as a piano-playing policeman.

The film contains a wonderful cast mostly filled with French actors as they all spoke French with a bit of English and broken Spanish. Small performances from Yvette Petit as Christine's friend and Alain de Moyencourt as her magician boyfriend Gerard are wonderful while Miou-Miou is great as Stephane's concerned mother Christine who has a great scene in one of the film's fantasy sequences. Pierre Vaneck is good as the snotty boss Mr. Pouchet who is very funny in another of Stephane's dream while Aurelia Petit and Sacha Bourdo are great as Stephane's co-workers who end up becoming part of the fantasy with their own stuffy attitudes. Emma de Caunes is excellent as Stephanie's flirtatious friend Zoe who tries to get Stephanie to be super-cool while being nice to Stephane. The best supporting performance goes to Alain Chabat as the perverse yet experienced Guy who tries to give Stephane advice about women while stealing the showing a punk-rock leather jacket in a scene where he is getting a lot of women.

Charlotte Gainsbourg gives one of her best and more charming performances as fellow dreamer and artist Stephanie who shares in Stephane's quirky and eccentric dreams yet is grounded into the real world. Gainsbourg has a beauty reminiscent of her famed mother Jane Birkin while combining some of the grittiness that she displayed in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarratu's 21 Grams. This is another great performance from the multi-talented Gainsbourg. Gael Garcia Bernal continues to display his talents as one of the best actors of his generation. Bringing a childlike innocence to the character, it's truly his most energetic and whimsical performance to date as Bernal brings a lot of humor and drama to the character. Bernal has great chemistry with Gainsbourg while his performance is also filled with sadness in the fact that he's trying to find answers from his late father where Bernal brings real depth to a young man who doesn't know how to grow up. It's probably the best performance he's ever given.

The Science of Sleep is a sprawling yet whimsical film from Michel Gondry. Thanks to the performances of Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the film has something to offer for those who love the conflict of reality and fiction as well as a strange love story. Conventional film audiences might not get the film but art house audiences and fans of Gondry will indeed enjoy this film. In the end, for a film that has a lot of heart and imagination, The Science of Sleep is the film to see.

Michel Gondry Films: Human Nature - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Dave Chappelle's Block Party - Be Kind Rewind - Tokyo!: Interior Design - (The Thorn in the Heart) - The Green Hornet - The We & the I - Mood Indigo - (Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?) - (Microbe & Gasoline)

© thevoid99 2013

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